Midweek Mumble… Fragmenting a Franchise – The Hobbit 3: Die Hobbitier?
Staff ranter and professional mumbler, Rodney talks this week about The Hobbit and its 3 film deal
The past week saw the news filter out of Camp Hobbit that Peter Jackson had struck a deal with Warner Bros and The Powers That Be to let him make a third film in his Hobbit saga. A great deal of gnashing of fanboy teeth has occurred since as people weigh in over whether it was a financial or creative decision – there’s no doubt a third Hobbit film would reap many more millions for the studio coffers, but the main point of contention was whether it would benefit Tolkien’s story or not. There’s two points to consider in this argument, from what I can tell. The first is whether Jackson and his team can craft three worthwhile films from the material already at hand, barring some extra filming later this (or next) year in Wellington. The second is whether the Hobbit story can stand to have much of it’s relatively brief and razor-thin plot – no doubt Jackson will have expanded much of the on-screen action of the book from material gleaned from the appendices from Lord Of The Rings, which filled in the gaps of “meanwhile, off-screen” in The Hobbit retroactively, and the point is whether adding in extra material not intrinsic to the original book will merely bloat the project to unsustainable narrative levels, or whether it will fit in nicely and actually enhance the work.
As cynical as it seems, one has to seriously consider that this might have been simply a financial decision from Warners to extend the franchise beyond the original 2-year plan. I think the majority of fans could expect a two-film project would be accommodate the material the original novel contained. Now that’s gone out to three, I think there’s a sense of Breaking Dawn-styled dread that Jackson and Warners, in their attempt to milk more money from the fans, will deliver three mediocre movies instead of two excellent ones. I mention Breaking Dawn, the two-film finale to the increasingly stupid Twilight series (yeah, I went there Twilight fans), because I’ve come to the conclusion that Summit Entertainment’s calculated financial decision to drag the highly questionable final book in Stephenie Meyer’s vampire saga across two films will become the modern-era cautionary tale about greed overriding creative ability. Splitting finale films across two installments seems to be the flavor of the decade at the moment – Harry Potter concluded with two Deathly Hallows films, the second in 3D no less, and turned out to be a canny decision both financially and creatively, because the ability for the film-makers to keep more of JK Rowling’s plotting within the film saga added impact to the concluding story. Breaking Dawn is attempting the same thing, even though Meyer’s novel has been called nothing but an enormous epilogue and virtually tension free compared to the preceding books. The first installment of the film versions, released last year, bore out everyone’s fears that there’s no way that book could be divided into two films and remain even vaguely interesting.
So we come to The Hobbit, a story written as a kid’s book originally, but one which has since become one of literature’s most highly regarded texts (aside from it’s bigger brother, Lord Of The Rings, of course) that most people would have felt might make a less emotional cinematic experience should somebody try and make it into a movie. The characters aren’t as nuanced as Tolkien’s later works, nor is the plot quite as widescreen as that presented in LOTR or even The Silmarillion, Tolkien’s anthology work which gave a history of Middle Earth (it should be noted here that Jackson and Warners do not have the rights to use material from The Silmarillion – they have used material available in the appendices of Lord Of The Rings to bulk up The Hobbit). Splitting The Hobbit across two films is at least conceivable, even if perhaps the story could have been compressed into a single entity – but to try spreading it across three films…. well, I’m going to say I’m highly critical that the story will remain as carefree and easy-to-digest as the book was.
Look, I hope I’m wrong, I truly do. I hope that Jackson hasn’t just said “let’s film everything we can from the stuff we have the rights to and bung it all into the Hobbit story whether it needs it or not”, because that would be doing not only himself, but the fans and Tolkien’s work the service and respect they, and it, deserves. The pressure on Jackson to deliver on that first film has just exploded exponentially – everyone’s going to be gauging the potential risk to the franchise if he stuffs it up, and no doubt the final two films will become even larger gambles if people think they’re being dudded. I have faith that Jackson will succeed, because his track record with this franchise is impeccable, but one can’t help but wonder about that nagging, gnawing feeling of doubt creeping into this story.
December just became very, very interesting.
Aussie film fan Rodney has been writing about film, DVD and Blu-Ray since 1998, when he became Chief Reviewer at a now-defunct Adelaide-based online retailer. A fan of blockbuster and mainstream cinema, as well as dabbling in arthouse and independent forms of the industry, Rodney prefers to spend his nights and weekends in front of the television watching the latest release on Blu-Ray instead of out getting sloppy drunk like many of his friends. When he’s not out in the Front Room, Rodney can be found writing reviews for his own website www.fernbyfilms.com, helping good mate Al K Hall over at The Bar None, and dabbling in lists over at Top 10 Films.
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